Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

tutti easily produces a sectional type of structure incompatible with the high degree of organization required in first movements; yet frequent alternation is evidently necessary, as the orchestral solo is audible only above a very subdued orchestral accompaniment, and it would be highly inartistic to use the orchestra for no other purpose. Hence in the classical concerto the ritornello is never abandoned, in spite of the enormous dimensions to which the sonata style expanded it. And though from the time of Mendelssohn onwards most composers have seemed to regard it as a conventional impediment easily abandoned, it may be doubted whether any modern concerto, except the four magnificent examples of Brahms, and Dr Joachim’s Hungarian concerto, possesses first movements in which the orchestra seems to enjoy breathing space. And certainly in the classical concerto the entry of the solo instrument, after the long opening tutti, is always dramatic in direct proportion to its delay. The great danger in handling so long an orchestral prelude is that the work may for some minutes be indistinguishable from a symphony and thus the entry of the solo may be unexpected without being inevitable. This is especially the case if the composer has treated his opening tutti like the exposition of a sonata movement, and made a deliberate transition from his first group of themes to a second group in a complementary key, even if the transition is only temporary, as in Beethoven’s C minor concerto. Mozart keeps his whole tutti in the tonic, relieved only by his mastery of sudden subsidiary modulation; and so perfect is his marshalling of his resources that in his hands a tutti a hundred bars long passes by with the effect of a splendid pageant, of which the meaning is evidently about to be revealed by the solo. After the C minor concerto, Beethoven grasped the true function of the opening tutti and enlarged it to his new purposes. With an interesting experiment of Mozart’s before him, he, in his G major concerto, Op. 53, allowed the solo player to state the opening theme, making the orchestra enter pianissimo in a foreign key, a wonderful incident which has led to the absurd statement that he “abolished the opening tutti,” and that Mendelssohn in so doing has “followed his example.” In this concerto he also gave considerable variety of key to the opening tutti by the use of an important theme which executes a considerable series of modulations, an entirely different thing from a deliberate modulation from material in one key to material in another. His fifth and last pianoforte concerto, in E flat, commonly called the “Emperor,” begins with a rhapsodical introduction of extreme brilliance for the solo player, followed by a tutti of unusual length which is confined to the tonic major and minor with a strictness explained by the gorgeous modulations with which the solo subsequently treats the second subject. In this concerto Beethoven also dispenses with the only really conventional feature of the form, namely, the cadenza, a custom elaborated from the operatic aria, in which the singer was allowed to extemporize a flourish on a pause near the end. A similar pause was made in the final ritornello of a concerto, and the soloist was supposed to extemporize what should be equivalent to a symphonic coda, with results which could not but be deplorable unless the player (or cadenza writer) were either the composer himself, or capable of entering into his intentions, like Joachim, who has written the finest extant cadenza of classical violin concertos.

Brahms’s first concerto in D minor, Op. 15, was the result of an immense amount of work, and, though on a mass of material originally intended for a symphony, was nevertheless so perfectly assimilated into the true concerto form that in his next essay, the violin concerto, Op. 77, he had no more to learn, and was free to make true innovations. He succeeds in presenting the contrasts even of remote keys so immediately that they are serviceable in the opening tutti and give the form a wider range in definitely functional key than any other instrumental music. Thus in the opening tutti of the D minor concerto the second subject is announced in B flat minor. In the B flat pianoforte concerto, Op. 83, it appears in D minor, and in the double concerto, Op. 102, for violin and violoncello in A minor it appears in F major. In none of these cases is it in the key in which the solo develops it, and it is reached with a directness sharply contrasted with the symphonic deliberation with which it is approached in the solo. In the violin concerto, Op. 77, Brahms develops a counterplot in the opposition between solo and orchestra, inasmuch as after the solo has worked out its second subject the orchestra bursts in, not with the opening ritornello, but with its own version of the material with which the solo originally entered. In other words we have now not only the development by the solo of material stated by the orchestra but also a counter-development by the orchestra of material stated by the solo. This concerto is, on the other hand, remarkable as being the last in which a blank space is left for a cadenza, Brahms having in his friend Joachim a kindred spirit worthy of such trust. In the pianoforte concerto in B flat, and in the double concerto,[1] Op. 102, the idea of an introductory statement in which the solo takes part before the opening tutti is carried out on a large scale, and in the double concerto both first and second subjects are thus suggested. It is unnecessary to speak of the other movements of concerto form, as the sectional structure that so easily results from the opposition between solo and orchestra is not of great disadvantage to slow movements and finales, which accordingly do not show important differences from the ordinary types of symphonic and chamber music. The scherzo, on the other hand, is normally of too small a range of contrast for successful adaptation to concerto form, and the solitary great example of its use is the second movement of Brahms’s B flat pianoforte concerto.

Nothing is more easy to handle with inartistic or pseudo-classic effectiveness than the opposition between a brilliant solo player and an orchestra; and, as the inevitable tendency of even the most artistic concerto has been to exhaust the resources of the solo instrument in the increased difficulty of making a proper contrast between solo and orchestra, so the technical difficulty of concertos has steadily increased until even in classical times it was so great that the orthodox definition of a concerto is that it is “an instrumental composition designed to show the skill of an executant, and one which is almost invariably accompanied by orchestra.” This idea is in flat violation of the whole history and aesthetics of the form, which can never be understood by means of a study of averages. In art the average is always false, and the individual organization of the greatest classical works is the only sound basis for generalizations, historic or aesthetic. (D. F. T.) 

CONCH (Lat. concha, Gr. κόγχη), a shell, particularly one of a mollusc; hence the term “conchology,” the science which deals with such shells, more used formerly when molluscs were studied and classified according to the shell formation; the word is chiefly now used for the collection of shells (see Mollusca, and such articles as Gastropoda, Malacostraca, &c.). Large spiral conchs have been from early times used as a form of trumpet, emitting a very loud sound. They are used in the West Indies and the South Sea Islands. The Tritons of ancient mythology are represented as blowing such “wreathed horns.” In anatomy, the term concha or “conch” is used of the external ear, or of the hollowed central part leading to the meatus; and, in architecture, it is sometimes given to the half dome over the semicircular apse of the basilica. In late Roman work at Baalbek and Palmyra and in Renaissance buildings shells are frequently carved in the heads of circular niches. A low class of the negro or other inhabitants of the Bahamas and the Florida Keys are sometimes called “Conches” or “Conks” from the shell-fish which form their staple food.

CONCHOID (Gr. κόγχη, shell, and εἶδος, form), a plane curve invented by the Greek mathematician Nicomedes, who devised a mechanical construction for it and applied it to the problem of the duplication of the cube, the construction of two mean proportionals between two given quantities, and possibly to the trisection of an angle as in the 8th lemma of Archimedes. Proclus grants Nicomedes the credit of this last application, but it is disputed by Pappus, who claims that his own discovery was

  1. Double and triple concertos are concertos with two or three solo players. A concerto for several solo players is called a concertante.